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Lecture | CMGI Brown Bag Seminar

Queer Migration to Amsterdam in the Late Twentieth Century

Wednesday 2 November 2022
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2022-2023
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

In the last two decades, the Netherlands has had a paradoxical relationship between homosexuality and migration: on the one hand, a nativist discourse emerged in which politicians and journalists framed immigrants as homophobic and sexually conservative, and thus as unable to assimilate with so-called Dutch values of tolerance and gay liberation (Puar, 2007; Mepschen et al., 2010); and on the other hand, the visibility of queer migrants has increased as the country increasingly became a destination of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers (Spijkerboer and Jansen, 2010), and as binational same-sex spouses settled in the Netherlands. Yet the Netherlands – in particular Amsterdam – held a reputation as a “gay capital” dating back to the 1950s (Hekma, 2001), luring especially middle-class men to the city's social clubs and gathering spaces. As some foreigners sought to build a life in Amsterdam, they navigated labor and post-colonial migration schemes in order to stay in the country, such as to remain with a same-sex partner, or to live as a de facto refugee(Schrover & Kampman, 2019). 

Through new oral histories with gay men who moved to the Netherlands from outside the EEC/EU in the twentieth century, this research asks: how has gay migratory culture been shaped by Amsterdam’s image as a “gay capital”? And how does the city’s image as a bastion of tolerance compare with the lived experiences of queer migrants? In considering migrants’ success and disappointments in the migration process, and with attention to the intersectional factors that influenced individuals' experiences (i.e. related to race, country of origin) -- as well as with attention to those who were unable to remain in the Netherlands altogether -- this article underscores the ambivalences and tensions surrounding Amsterdam’s reputation as a mecca for queer migrants historically, with implications for today.

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